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Tyshawn Sorey: The Maestro

How an eager young sideman from Newark became one of the most gifted, ambitious and multifaceted figures of the avant-garde

Tyshawn Sorey (photo: John Rogers)
Tyshawn Sorey (photo: John Rogers)
Tyshawn Sorey performs at the Newport Jazz Festival in July
Tyshawn Sorey's Alloy, featuring pianist Cory Smythe and bassist Christopher Tordini, performs at the Newport Jazz Festival in July

Months before the release of his Blood Sutra in 2003, pianist Vijay Iyer and his quartet premiered music from the album in a concert commissioned by the Jazz Gallery (then still on Hudson Street in Lower Manhattan). Iyer had developed a generative rapport with drummer Derrek Phillips on past projects, but Phillips was no longer in New York. The gig went to an up-and-comer, a Newark, New Jersey native and undergraduate at William Paterson University named Tyshawn Sorey, who completed the Blood Sutra lineup with Rudresh Mahanthappa on alto saxophone and Stephan Crump on bass.

Sorey stunned listeners that night with his raw, inventive rhythmic approach and gale-force chops. But few people, perhaps not even Iyer, were yet aware of the breadth of Sorey’s talent.

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